AAR Association of Author’s Representatives; professional organization has established codes of conduct for legitimate literary agents to follow.
ABA American Booksellers Association, a trade organization for publishers and booksellers.
ABI Advance Book Information form, used to list upcoming books in directories like Books In Print.
Acceptability.satisfactory clause Found in most publishing contracts; allows the publisher to require changes to or reject unsatisfactory material.
Acknowledgments An author’s thanks to or recognition of the people who helped him with the current book; may include his agent and editor, friends, consultants, etc.
Acknowledgments may be part of the front matter or back matter of a book.
Acquiring editor Also called an acquisitions editor. At a book publishing house, the person who champions a book idea at pub board and gets the okay to offer a contract to the author; usually an author’s first point of contact throughout the writing and editing process.
Advance In book publishing, an up-front payment against future royalty earnings. Advances usually are tied to an author’s stature and sales expectations for the book.
Afterword Part of a book’s back matter, in which the author or someone else talks directly to the reader.
Agent An author’s representative, whose job is to market the author’s material, negotiate contracts, audit statements, handle subsidiary rights sales, and other business matters. Legitimate agents earn money through commissions on such sales. Also called literary agents or author representatives.
Agented submissions In book publishing, queries, proposals, and manuscripts that are forwarded to editors through literary agents. The large houses generally do not accept submissions directly from writers; they only accept agented submissions.
ALA American Library Association, a trade organization for libraries around the United States.
All rights Writers can sell all rights in a specific work to a publisher for a specified time or indefinitely. You can’t sell any other rights to this particular work until the rights license period expires.
Angle A particular slant or point of view. Often used to describe magazine articles and nonfiction book proposals; a unique angle that hasn’t been explored before is more likely to pique interest.
Anthology A collection of writings, usually short stories, essays, or poetry, by one or more authors and published as a single book.
Appendix Part of the back matter in a book containing additional information, usually reference material, such as other resources or glossaries.
Applicable law Publishing contracts specify which state laws govern the agreement because writers, agents, and publishers often are in different states. The governing law always comes from the state where the contract originated, i.e., where the agent’s or publisher’s business is located. Also called governing law.
Author Originator or creator, especially of written works. Originally used to refer to someone who invented or composed something, the word became linked with writing books in the fourteenth century.
Author copies In book publishing, the number of free copies the author receives (specified in the contract). For hardcover books, most authors receive ten free copies; for paperback, you might receive twenty or twenty-five.
Author’s bio A one-page narrative, written in the third person, describing the author’s qualifications to write a book. For magazine pieces, the bio may be one or two sentences.
Back matter Material that is located at the back of a book. Common back matter items include the afterword, author’s bio, glossary, and index.
Backlist Books that have been in print for a year or more and are still available from the publisher.
Berne Convention Arguably the most important of several international treaties protecting copyrights of writers, musicians, and other artists. One hundred countries are signatories to the Berne Convention, which automatically protects the copyrights of artists who are citizens of any of the member countries.
Bibliography A formal citation of resources used in writing a book or paper.
Big Six The giant international publishing conglomerates, all with U.S. operations based in New York City: Harper-Collins, Holtzbrinck, Penguin, Random House, Simon &Schuster, and Time Warner. Also called the Six Sisters.
Blog Short for Web log, a type of online journal or diary.
Blurb A brief endorsement, usually by an expert or celebrity, of a book, often found on the back cover.
BOB Acronym for “back of the book.” In magazine publishing, the publication (and sometimes a specific issue of the publication) is called the “book.” At many magazines, some departments and features have their regular homes at the back of the book.
Boilerplate Standard. Most form letters, including form rejection letters, are called boilerplates. Many press releases also include boilerplate paragraphs with brief descriptions of the company issuing the release.
Break-out book A book that sells unexpectedly well.
Byline Author’s credit in magazines and newspapers.
Clips An author’s published articles and stories; the most valuable clips, in terms of building a writing career, carry your byline.
Coauthor A collaborator on a book, story, or article who receives byline credit.
Collaboration agreement A contract defining the responsibilities and revenue splits between coauthors.
Commercial title A book that is expected to have great sales potential to a broad audience (as opposed to literary or academic titles, which usually don’t achieve bestseller status).
Commission A percentage of earnings. The typical agent’s commission for domestic sales is 15 percent.
Competition discussion In nonfiction book proposals, a one-page examination of similar books already on the market.
Content edit A review of a manuscript for content, organization, style, and other factors, as opposed to a line or copy edit for spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
Contributing writer In magazine publishing and book anthologies, a writer who contributes an article or chapter but who is not on the magazine’s staff or the primary writer for the book.
Contributor copies Small and literary magazines often pay writers whose work they publish with copies of the issue in which the writer’s work appears.
Copublishing An arrangement in which the author and the publisher split the expenses of producing and publishing a book; sometimes a viable method of self-publishing, but can be open to abuse.
Copy edit Also called a line edit. Reviewing a manuscript for spelling, grammar, and other mechanics; may also include fact-checking.
Copy editor The editor who checks material for style, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other mechanics; often also acts as a fact-checker.
Copyright An umbrella of rights covering artistic creation and expression and the sale, production, or publication of such work.
Copyright notice A notice printed on a copyrightable work, including works posted online, that identifies the copyright owner and the date (usually only the year) of the copyright. Most copyright notices are formatted like this: Copyright © 2005 by Jane Doe.
Cover letter A business letter sent with materials that have been requested by an agent or editor.
Credit line Generally applicable to photos and other graphics, a notice identifying who took the photo or created the illustration.
Cutline A brief description of a photo, chart, or illustration. Also called a caption.
Deadline A due date for material. Originally, a deadline was a line around a prison, beyond which an inmate was liable to be shot.
Deck or dek In magazine publishing, the sentence or phrase below the headline, which further describes the article’s content. Usually printed in text that is smaller than the headline but larger than the body copy. Also called deck copy.
Dedication Part of the front matter of a book, in which the author dedicates the work to another person or persons.
Department editor In magazine publishing, the editor who is responsible for specific topics or sections of the publication, e.g., health editor, senior food editor.
Derivative work Unoriginal; a work that is based on or taken from another existing work.
Development editor In book publishing, the editor who checks finished manuscripts for structure, content, and layout (how the final printed page will look). Also called a project editor.
Dramatic rights One of the many rights covered under the copyright umbrella, which includes plays, movies, and television shows derived from a written work.
Dust cover The decorative paper wrapping around a hardcover book. Also called a dust jacket.
Editor in chief The person in charge of a magazine or book publisher, ultimately responsible for editorial decisions and the daily operations of the editorial portion of the business.
Editorial meeting A meeting of editors and, in book publishing, marketing, sales, and publicity staff, to discuss potential books or articles and other issues. Also called the publication board or pub board meeting.
Electronic publishing Publication of information via the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic means, as opposed to print publishing.
Endorsement A statement of support, often by an established celebrity of some sort, designed to influence people to purchase something or otherwise take action.
Excerpt rights Also called first serial rights, excerpt rights are sold to magazines and, more rarely, to newspapers, to publish significant excerpts of soon-to-be-published books. If the excerpts are published after the book is published, the magazine purchases second serial rights.
Executed contract A contract that is signed by all parties.
Executive editor The person responsible for overseeing other editors; may report to or take the place of the editor in chief.
E-zine An online magazine or newsletter.
Fair use A legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyright material without seeking permission of the copyright owner.
FAQ Acronym for Frequently Asked Questions, designed to help beginners or novices understand the basics of a topic.
First serial rights The right to be the first to publish a specific work in periodical form (i.e., magazines, newspapers, newsletters, journals, etc.). These rights can be limited by geography, language, time, and other factors, e.g., first North American serial rights.
Flat fee One-time payment, regardless of sales levels, as opposed to royalty payments, which are based on actual sales. Also used as opposed to hourly fees for certain freelance work and for work-for-hire arrangements.
FOB Acronym for “front of the book.” In magazine publishing, the publication (and sometimes a specific issue of the publication) is called the “book.” At many magazines, some departments and features have their regular homes at the front of the book.
Foreign agent An agent based in a foreign country who arranges sales to publishers in that country. U.S. agents often contract with foreign agents to handle foreign sales.
Foreign market Any market outside the United States, or outside the geographic limits of the rights being sold. For North American rights, Canada and Mexico are not considered foreign markets, but Europe, South America, and Asia would be foreign markets.
Foreign rights A set of rights under the copyright umbrella for publishing or distributing material in foreign markets, i.e., countries other than where the work was originally published.
Foreword Part of the front matter of a book, often written by someone other than the book’s author and sometimes taking the form of commentary on the book or the author’s complete body of work.
Freelancer Independent contractor, as opposed to being a full- or part-time member of a company’s or publication’s staff.
Front list Newly published books, usually those expected to sell well.
Front matter In book publishing, the introductory material printed before the book’s main text, such as dedications, acknowledgments, introductions, and forewords.
Galley Page proof showing the layout of an article, magazine, or book before it is printed and bound.
Genre The category of a specific work, especially fiction. Genres were developed as a marketing tool to allow readers to easily find the types of books they want. Fiction genres include romance, mystery and suspense, science fiction and fantasy, and action.adventure.
Ghostwriter A person who does the actual writing of a book or article but does not get author’s credit for the work. Celebrities often hire ghostwriters to write autobiographies.
Governing law Publishing contracts specify which state laws govern the agreement because writers, agents, and publishers often are in different states. The governing law always comes from the state where the contract originated, i.e., where the agent’s or publisher’s business is located. Also called applicable law.
Grant of rights Most commonly, a transferal of specific rights in a specific work. The copyright owner grants certain rights to a publisher, which are spelled out in the contract.
Guarantee In publishing contracts, a promise that a work is original and does not violate anyone’s civil or intellectual property rights and that the person granting the rights actually is the legal owner of those rights.
Hard copy A printed version of a work.
Hardcover A book whose covers are made of cardboard. Also called hardback, hardbound, and case-bound.
Head or hed In magazine and newspaper publishing, a headline.
Header In manuscript formatting, a line or lines at the top of each page, typically indicating the page number and the author’s name or the title of the work.
Honorarium A token payment for services, often smaller than the full market value of the work.
Imprint A specific line of books, often used by publishers to create brand identities for different genres or broad categories. Large publishers typically have several imprints.
In print Books currently available from publishers. Also can refer to print-on-demand books.
Index An alphabetical listing of terms and the page numbers where they can be found in a particular book.
Infringement Using portions of copyright-protected work without the copyright owner’s permission.
IRC International Reply Coupon. Writers who submit their material overseas must include IRCs to pay for return postage.
ISBN Acronym for International Standard Book Number, a unique number that identifies the publisher, edition, and type of binding for a particular book.
ISP Internet Service Provider. America Online (AOL), Earthlink, and AT&T are examples of ISPs.
Joint contract A contract between two or more collaborators with an agent or publisher.
Keywords On the Internet, words that search engines look for.
Kill fee In magazine publishing, the fee paid when an article has been turned in but will not be published. The fee usually is a percentage of the payment initially agreed upon for publication.
Layout The design of text, photos, and other graphics on a printed page.
Licensing rights One of many rights covered by copyright, typically covering merchandise like calendars, apparel, toys, and other retail items.
List For book publishers, all the titles issued by a given publisher that are currently in print.
List price The suggested selling price of a book. Also called the retail or cover price.
LMP Literary Market Place, a comprehensive directory of publishers and literary agents available in public libraries and online.
Managing editor The person responsible for daily editorial operations at a newspaper, magazine, or book publisher; usually reports to the editor in chief or the executive editor.
Manuscript Copy for a book, short story, or article that has not been edited or typeset.
Market discussion In nonfiction book proposals, a one-page description of the targeted readership of the book.
Mass-market paperback A small, paperbound book, usually printed on less expensive paper and often sold in places like grocery stores as well as traditional booksellers.
Masthead In newspapers and magazines, the section that lists the publication’s ownership, publication schedule, subscription information, key staff, and other details.
Midlist Newly published books that are not expected to and do not achieve bestseller status.
Model release For photos and some illustrations, a form that authorizes the use of the person’s likeness or image.
Ms.mss Abbreviation for manuscript(s), commonly found in market listings.
Multiple submission The process of submitting the same material to more than one agent, magazine, or publishing house for consideration. Also called a simultaneous submission.
News release A written announcement of an event, new product, or other newsworthy items, sent to media outlets for publication. Also called a press release.
Next-book clause In book publishing, a clause that gives the publisher the first right of refusal on the author’s next book project. Definitions of “next-book project” can be open-ended or tightly defined. Sometimes called an option clause.
Number 10 envelope Standard business-sized envelope, appropriate for mailing up to five 8 ½ x 11 pages, folded in thirds.
On acceptance In magazine publishing, when payment is authorized. “On acceptance” generally means quicker payment than “on publication.”
On publication In magazine publishing, when payment is authorized.
Because of the lengthy lead times for most magazines, authors who are paid on publication often wait several months before they receive a check.
On spec Short for “on speculation.” Magazine editors often will ask unknown writers or writers they haven’t worked with before to submit their material on spec before deciding whether to purchase the article or story.
One-time rights Unless otherwise specified in writing, you sell only one-time rights to any purchaser. This is why contracts specify things like first serial rights or reprint rights.
Option A guarantee that no one else can purchase specific rights for a specified period. The option buyer pays the rights owner to keep those rights off the market until the option expires or the buyer decides to purchase the optioned right.
Option clause See next-book clause.
Originality The quality of newness in the way ideas are expressed and.or the angle explored.
Out of print A book that is no longer available from the publisher is considered out of print. Contract clauses may include specific definitions of “out of print,” based on sales thresholds, for example.
Outline For fiction and nonfiction books, a chapter-by-chapter description of the material covered in the manuscript.
Over the transom Slang for unsolicited or unagented material.
Overview For nonfiction books, a narrative, two- to five-page discussion of the material covered in the proposed book.
Package In magazines, a collection of related elements, usually including a main article, sidebars, photos, illustrations, and other graphics.
Page proof A layout of pages, including all text and graphic elements, as they will appear when printed. Also called a galley.
Paperback A book whose covers are made from paper rather than board. Also called a softcover or paperbound book.
Partial ms Partial manuscript.
Pen name Alias or pseudonym, often used by authors who want to write in different genres.
Periodical Any magazine, newsletter, or other publication that is issued on a regular basis (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly).
Permission Written authorization from a copyright owner to use material from a protected work. Also can refer to the forms used to document such permission.
Personal essay A narrative piece that relates the author’s experience or opinion.
Plagiarism The act of copying someone else’s work and representing it as your own work.
Podcast Internet-based audio programming that can be downloaded to MP3 players.
Preface Part of a book’s front matter, usually written by the author and often used to tell readers the author’s reasons and goals for writing the book.
Press release See news release.
Press run The number of copies to be printed. Also called a print run.
Print on demand (POD) Technology that allows publishers or printers to create only as many copies as needed.
Profile A narrative article relating the personal experience, opinions, and personality of the subject, often a celebrity or other person of interest.
Project editor In book publishing, the editor who checks finished manuscripts for structure, content, and layout (how the final printed page will look). Also called a development editor.
Promotion discussion In nonfiction book proposals, a one-page description of things the author is willing to do to promote his or her book, including any special access the author has to groups that match the target readership.
Proposal A marketing package that details a book idea, the market and competition for the idea, and the author’s credentials for writing the book, designed to persuade an agent or editor to offer a contract.
Pub board See editorial meeting.
Public domain Work that is no longer protected by copyright. Public domain work does not require permission for its use, but it must be attributed to the original source to avoid charges of plagiarism.
Pull quote A sentence or phrase pulled from the main text and set in large type on the printed page.
Quality paperback A paperback book, printed on higher quality paper and usually with a larger trim size than mass-market paperbacks. Also called trade paperbacks.
Query.query letter A business letter describing an article, story, or book idea in which the goal is to convince an agent or editor to ask for more material.
Reading fee One of many descriptions unethical agents use to charge up-front fees to authors. The AAR prohibits members from charging any sort of up-front fees, which also may be called marketing fees or contract fees.
Release form Authorization for the use of one’s likeness or image in a published form.
Remainders Leftover stocks of books that are sold at deep discounts when sales fall dramatically or stop altogether. Authors usually receive no royalties on remaindered books but can purchase copies at the remainder price.
Reprint In book publishing, a reprint uses the original material, sometimes in a different format, such as a large print book previously published as a trade paperback. In magazine publishing, a reprint is republishing the original article or story in its entirety.
Reprint rights Also called second serial rights; generally sold to magazines after an article, story, or book excerpt has been published elsewhere.
Reserve against returns An accounting practice that allows a publisher to hold back a portion of an author’s royalties in anticipation that a certain percentage of the copies shipped to booksellers will be returned to the publisher.
Residual rights Rights that remain with the copyright owner, especially rights that are not specifically addressed in a contract.
Response time The average time it takes agents and editors to respond to submitted materials. Also called reporting time.
Returns Books that are not sold at booksellers and are returned to the publisher, usually for full credit. Returns are deducted from an author’s royalty payments.
Review copy A free copy of a book sent to major newspapers, magazines, and others who might help promote the book.
Revised edition A new printing of a book in which substantial changes have been made. Revised editions require new ISBNs; updated editions do not.
Reversion of rights A mechanism by which rights that have been granted to another return to the original copyright owner, usually after a specified time has elapsed.
Rights license period A defined time for which a copyright owner grants certain rights to a purchaser. In the case of books, the rights license period usually lasts as long as the book is in print.
Round-up An article that quotes or relates the experiences of several subjects on a specific topic.
Royalties The percentage of sales revenue paid to the author. Royalties can be based on list price or wholesale price, as well as on the number of copies sold.
RSS Acronym for Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, a computer application that allows Internet users to sign up for e-mail alerts when information on a specific Web site is updated or changed.
SASE Self-addressed, stamped envelope. Unless you’re using IRCs, always stick the stamp(s) to your SASE.
Second serial rights Also called reprint rights; generally sold to magazines after an article, story, or book excerpt has been published elsewhere.
Self-publishing An arrangement in which the author takes on all the responsibilities of writing, designing, printing, marketing, and distributing his or her book.
Service piece A “how-to” article that gives detailed instructions or steps to accomplish a task or goal.
Short run A print run of less than 10,000 copies.
Sidebar A short article related to the main piece.
Simultaneous rights The rights an author sells when he or she offers the same material to nonoverlapping markets at the same time.
Simultaneous submission See multiple submission.
Six Sisters The giant international publishing conglomerates, all with U.S. operations based in New York City: Harper-Collins, Holtzbrinck, Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Time Warner. Also called the Big Six.
Slant See angle.
Slug A word or brief phrase identifying an article or short story. Used to keep track of copy as it moves through the production process.
Slush pile In magazine offices, material that has not yet been accepted or rejected. Sometimes called the “maybe” pile.
Snail mail The U.S. Postal Service, so called because of its slow delivery times compared with e-mail.
Solicited Material that has been requested on the basis of a query letter. Many agents and editors only read solicited material and will return, unopened, unsolicited materials.
Abbreviation for spelling, used to note that the correct spelling of a word needs to be verified.
Special sales In book publishing, special sales can include arrangements with book clubs, reissuing a title in paperback, and other exploitations of subsidiary rights in a work.
Spine The part of a book that connects the front and back covers. Sometimes called a backbone.
Stet A proofreader’s mark signifying that other editing marks should be ignored. Stet is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase for “let it stand.”
Stringer In newspaper publishing, a freelance reporter or photographer.
Style guide A manual that describes a publication’s rules for style, punctuation, spelling, and other language rules. Common style guides include The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook.
Subagent An agent hired to handle specific types of sales, such as foreign rights or movie rights. The agent and subagent typically split the commission from such sales.
Subsidiary rights A range of additional rights covered under the copyright umbrella that, usually, have lower priority and often lower value than actual publication rights. Subsidiary rights include electronic rights, dramatic rights, translation rights, book club rights, etc.
Subsidy press A publishing house that charges the author to produce a book. Subsidy presses often are scams set up to bilk authors, and subsidy books generally are not considered legitimate publishing credits. Also called subsidy publishing.
Syndication rights A special form of serial rights that allows the syndica-tor to provide the same material to two or more publishing outlets at the same time.
Synopsis In fiction writing, a brief narrative description of a novel’s plot, including the ending.
Title page In book publishing, the page near the front of the book that includes the book’s title, author’s name, and the name of the publisher.
TOC Table of contents.
Trade journal A newspaper, magazine, or newsletter aimed at members of specific professions or industries.
Trade paperback A paperback book, printed on higher quality paper and usually with a larger trim size than mass-market paperbacks. Also called quality paperbacks.
Translation rights The right to translate a work into a language other than the one in which it was originally published.
Trim size The size of a book page after it has been trimmed. Mass-market paperbacks have smaller trim sizes than trade paperbacks.
Unagented writer A writer who is not represented by a literary agent. Most small presses and some mid-sized publishers work with unagented writers; the larger houses prefer to work with agents.
Unearned advance An advance that is not earned back through actual sales of the published book.
Unexecuted contract A contract that has not been signed by all parties. You receive an unexecuted contract to review, sign, and send back to the publisher for their signature, and another copy, with all signatures, is sent to you for your records.
Universal Copyright Convention One of several international treaties protecting the copyrights of authors, musicians, and other artists who are citizens of the signatory countries.
Unsolicited Material sent without a query letter first. Many agents and editors won’t consider unsolicited material; they will only read material they requested on the basis of a query.
Vanity press A form of self-publisher, generally considered illegitimate because the quality of the finished product usually is poor and such books are not stocked by booksellers and libraries. Also called a subsidy press.
Wiki A form of blog that allows multiple authors to contribute to the same Web page.
Wire service A news service that collects and sells stories and information to its members. The Associated Press, Gannett News Service, and Reuters are all wire services.
Work for hire Also called “work made for hire.” Work in which the writer is paid a flat fee and retains no rights in the work. Except in cases where employees create the work as part of their regular job duties, all valid work-for-hire must be spelled out in writing.
Working title A tentative or preliminary title or headline, often changed before actual publication.